I'm currently perusing "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. (My sidebar is hopelessly out of date-- perhaps someday I will update it.) She is quite a competent literary critic and I've enjoyed her insights so far, though some of what she writes is over my head. She understands the transformative power of fiction. The books you read shape your soul.
But why is that? The question is bothering me. Why does fiction-- something made up, change who you are? How does fiction fit into a Christian worldview? Many Christians have condemned fiction as wicked or at the very least a waste of time. Yet it is a means of education that God Himself uses. As I ponder this, I think perhaps that the power of fiction is that it transports us into an alternate reality, or as Nafasi puts it, a new world is created. And there is such a thing as an alternate reality. This world is not our home. Perhaps there is something in our souls that tells us that this is not all there is, so we read fiction to satisfy our hunger for a new world. Nafaisi writes:
"Nabokov calls every great novel a fairy tale, I said. Well, I would agree. First, let me remind you that fairy tales abound with frightening witches who eat children and wicked stepmothers who poision their beautiful stepdaughters and weak fathers who leave their children behind in forests. But the magic comes from the power of good, that force which tells us that we need not give in to the limitations and restrictions imposed on us by McFate, as Nabokov called it. Every fairy tale offers the potential to surpass present limits, so in a sense that fairy tale offers you the freedoms that reality denies."
And that has echoes of the gospel in it, doesn't it? We are beset by sin and the devil, trapped in hopelessness and wickedness. But Christ supernaturally frees us from the bondage of sin and death and we are given access into a new reality.